Immediately following the World Trade Center (WTC) terrorist attacks, the nation learned that there are thousands of workers who willingly put themselves in danger to help with emergency response, recovery and cleanup efforts. Ultimately, we also learned that the system for protecting these heroes was not nearly as efficient as their dedication. Worker protection was recognized as important, but not important enough to be emphasized or properly enforced. Consequently, workers who gave tirelessly to remove the scars of terrorism on national soil now experience deteriorating health from exposure to toxic dust and debris. Construction Craft Laborers (CCL) were part ofthe Skilled Support Personnel (SSP) on the WTC disaster response. They provided long hours of waste removal, deconstmction activities, decontamination, and other duties that supported emergency responders. Later, they provided the bulk ofthe manpower that cleared the site and helped repair and reconstruct vital infrastructure. These support services are common to disaster site work and have significant hazards associated with them, including exposure to toxic materials;physical danger from falls, confined space, environmental hazards;and construction equipment;and damaging psychological effects from post-traumatic stress. Fortunately, programs like the NIEHS Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program (HWWTP) were able to quickly identify workforce safety and training needs. Using skilled instructors, mobile training units, and local training facilities, organizations like LIUNA Training rapidly responded and provided safety and skills training for WTC workers. Hundreds of CCL and other trades workers benefited from this training, which provided them with personal protective equipment, HW remediation and asbestos abatement skills, and information on site specific hazards. After 9-11, many experts reviewed emergency response hazards, the training workers received, and the lack of attention to worker protection. Much time was spent deciding how to prepare for future disasters. Government representatives, labor leaders, health professionals, and workforce educators worked together to identify training needs and to establish new emergency response plans that would better prepare us for the next disaster. When the disaster arrived, it was of such a magnitude and resulted in such widespread damage, that the nation was once again caught off-guard. The 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes left the nation seeking trained disaster response workers and looking to government agencies to protect both workers and citizens. Different hazards, like mold, lead paint, biological, and petroleum contamination, required specialized training. LIUNA Training again rose to the challenge and provided emergency response and health and safety training under the HWV /TP and the Hazmat Disaster Preparedness Training Program (HDPTP). As a result of these and smaller incidents, the country has learned more about the relationship between emergency response and worker safety training. OSHA has provided recommendations for disaster response training that include OHSA Construction Safety and Health, HW Worker, and Disaster Site Worker courses. (OSHA 2009) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security directed the development and administration ofthe National Incident Management System (U.S. DHS 2008) and clarified the role of government and private sector responders. Worker health and safety and training organizations and government agencies created curriculum, resources, worker pocket guides, and OHSA quick cards for comprehensive worker training and easy reference. (OHSA 2008;CDC 2009) Even safety equipment companies provide information and research on worker protection. (Johnson, 2009) Training programs, disaster exercises, and development of information on different types of disasters have all been a part of ongoing efforts to promote disaster preparedness. Yet much more needs to be accomplished. To maintain a skilled workforce that is easily accessible and available for disaster site work requires ongoing training and retraining. Workers must already have the skills and experience of their trade as well as specialized safety and response training required for hazardous environments. Natural and man-induced disasters are proving to be more common. Environmental disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires);disasters from failed engineering or natural resource extraction (coal sludge pond breaches, bridge collapses, dam failures, shuttle and airplane crashes), war induced incidents or other acts of terrorism (WTC, anthrax, bombings), and the potential for nuclear and other energy-related disasters are all within the realm of possibility. Any one of these could occur at any time, and the nation needs to be as prepared as possible. Such preparation must include training for the workers who will respond in these times of need.

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Liuna Training and Education Fund
Pomfret Center
United States
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